The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Broad and Deep

Whether it's the size and scope of the federal government, immigration policies, education at the K-12 level, academia, some of the science establishment, urban crime, racial issues, climate change, Covid policy, gender identity or any of dozens of political hot-button topics, the Left rules the roost. Adherents to leftist ideology have largely taken over or guide the direction of mainstream and social media, large tech companies, large corporate entities, major government agencies, at lease some within the justice system, and the entertainment industry. As a consequence, leftist ideology is ubiquitous. In fact, it is impossible to avoid it because every one of the entities noted is part of a broad and deep communication network from which virtually every U.S citizen along with tens of millions of both legal and illegal non-citizens form their world-view.

And yet, for all of the communication power that this 'broad and deep network' provides, a significant percentage of all Americans looks askance at many of the narratives it promulgates. 

Maybe that's why the progressive left have made a dramatic pivot over the past few decades—a pivot that accelerated dramatically over the past 6 or 7 years. In the past, it was progressives who were the champions of free speech. Left-wing activists insisted they had the right and obligation to "speak truth to power" whenever government overstepped the bounds imposed by our Constitution. But now that the broad and deep communication network confers enormous power to the ideological left, free speech rights of opponents to that power represent a substantial threat.

The solution has been covert and overt censorship. Ambiguous words and phrases such as mis- and dis-information, hate speech, and conspiracy theory are now used to justify broad-based attempts to censor opposing views. Private entities that include both mainstream and social media companies have become the governments censorship arm. Government agencies are tasks with promoting policies and producing cherry-picked "facts" that support their preferred narrative and the policies that weaponize it.

With this as background, the editors of the Wall Street Journal report:

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday against federal officials for colluding with tech platforms to suppress speech, but you’d hardly know it from the limited press coverage. The decision in Missouri v. Biden deserves more attention because it defines the constitutional limits to coordination between government and private actors and may be headed to the Supreme Court.

Missouri and Louisiana—joined by individuals whose posts opposing government views on Covid were censored—sued various federal officials for violating their First Amendment rights. Federal Judge Terry Doughty ruled against the government on nearly all points. The three-judge Fifth Circuit panel largely upheld his findings of fact and law while narrowing his injunction.

The unsigned 74-page opinion begins by detailing the unprecedented coordination during the pandemic between government agencies and social-media platforms. Tech employees “attended regular meetings” with government officials and “seemingly stepped-up their efforts” to remove content to appease them, the decision explains.

Platforms “gave the officials access to an expedited reporting system, downgraded or removed flagged posts, and deplatformed users,” the opinion says. And they “changed their internal policies to capture more flagged content and sent steady reports on their moderation activities to the officials.”

The Biden Administration argued that the tech platforms acted independently, and that communications by federal officials are protected “government speech.” The Fifth Circuit disagreed, holding that officials crossed the First Amendment line by coercing platforms with threats of antitrust action and legal liability for user content under Section 230.

Over the past few years, those of us who value free speech have been highly critical of the censorship that has been implemented at the behest of leftist politicians, activists, and government agencies (e.g., here, here, and here). The clear intent of this censorship is to stifle any opinion that criticizes the narrative and/or policies derived from it. In some cases, the censorship is wholly political, but in others, (Covid lockdowns, masking, and the efficacy/dangers of mRNA vaccine come to mind) such censorship endangers the public and leads to destructive outcomes. It looks like the Federal courts now agree.

But here's the thing. It takes years for cases like Missouri v. Biden to move through the courts. In the meantime, those who favor censorship, who weaponize government and stifle opposing views have free reign. As a consequence, they win in the short term, even if they're ultimately enjoined in the longer term. And that is their strategy—to unethically or illegally put their destructive policies in place, even when they know they are borderline or actually unconstitutional. It's the modus operandi of the Left and it's not going to change.